Best food dehydrator for jerky in 2020 and best meat for jerky


homemade beef jerky ready for dehydration
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If you are in a hurry and just want to find out what the best induction cooktop with built-in downdraft is then I’d recommend the COSORI food dehydrator as the best one.

The most significant advantage of drying or dehydrating meat for jerky is that it removes the water that yeast and bacteria need to grow. If appropriately dried jerky will not spoil. There are many ways you can dry food, for example, in the oven on the sun or in the food dehydrator. The best way to dry meat for jerky is by using a food dehydrator.

Dehydrators are energy efficient, and temperature control is easy, dehydrated foods are not susceptible to scorching and are much more flavorful than dried food from the oven. An electric dehydrator will give you the best most consistent results.

homemade beef jerky in a jar

Quick Comparison: Top dehydrators for deer, beef and other jerky

Below, you’ll find our more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.

Here are the dehydrators we will be reviewing:

What is a food dehydrator?

Food dehydrators are straightforward machines. They are made of plastic or stainless steel. Most dehydrators for home use, have an internal motor, and use a fan to distribute the heat throughout the machine. There are two types of air circulations when it comes to dehydrators, horizontal and vertical airflow.

Simply said, dehydrators remove the moisture out of food. With this process, you can extend the expiration date of the food. The most common foods for dehydration are fruits, meat, and herbs.

Each dehydrator also has a different amount of trays on which you put the food on. The trays are usually made out of plastic and stainless steel. The cheaper versions of dehydrators tend to have plastic trays, but most expensive versions have stainless steel trays.

When buying a food dehydrator, you should always consider the quantity of food that you are dehydrating. It is better to buy a little bigger dehydrator than just the right size because when you start drying eventually, you will want to make more.

Quick guide on how to make the best homemade deer, chicken, beef or any other jerky

This quick guide doesn’t cover all the aspects and details about making jerky, but it can be a high starting point if you are a beginner.

First, decide on the type of meat you want to make the jerky from. Always use lean meat with at least amount of fat. The rule of thumb is to slice the meat about 1/4″ thick.

When you slice the meat, prepare your favorite jerky marinade and soak it for about 30 minutes to one day. You can slice the meat in two ways with the grain (which will result in a chewier beef jerky) or against the grain (which will be more tender). I recommend you cut it against the grain.

homemade jerky ready marinated

When you take the meat out of the marinade, pat dry it with a towel. I like to pat the strips dry because if not, I have found that the outside of the jerky gets sticky from the excess marinade. I’m not a fan of messy or sticky jerky, so that’s why I always do it.


The drying time really depends on how thick you slice the meat. If it is sliced about 1/4″ thick, it should take about 4 hours.

The meat should reach the internal temp of 160F or 70C, which is also USDA recommendation. It is much more important to consider this with ground meat than with whole muscle jerky. The 160F or 70C is also a recommendation because the meat is heated very slowly (unless using the oven pre-heat method) in a dehydrator, which can allow the bacteria to become more heat resistant and more likely to survive. Better safe than sorry!

How to know when the jerky is done;
as long as it takes to finish drying. While drying, starting at around the three to four-hour mark, take a piece of jerky out of the dehydrator and let it cool to room temperature (about 5 minutes). Bend the strip. It should bend and crack but not break in half. You should also see white strands of fibers when bending. If this doesn’t happen, keep drying for another hour or so and test again.

 

Best meat and meat cuts for jerky

There are several types of meat you can use to make jerky. Not every part of the animal is perfect for jerky as some pieces tend to be very hard, fatty or chewy. The rule of thumb is that the pieces with the least amount of fat in the meat tend to be the best. Here are the most common meats and parts of meat you could use for making jerky.

Beef – the best meat for making jerky

Sirloin Tip

This is not perfect, but an ok part for making jerky. Not so popular, but it is very tasty. This part of the meat is on the front end of the rear leg.

Eye of Round

beef eyeround

I think this is the most popular cut of meat for making jerky. It is lean, and the price is low. If it comes with silver skin or fat, you need to cut it off before making jerky.

Flank Steak

The most expensive part. It has got some white stripes in the middle but not to worry about. If you get it with silver skin, you need to trim it off. Since the grain is very long with this steak, you need to cut the jerky strips against the grain.

Top Round

Top round is similar to the bottom round. It is more tender than the bottom round and a bit cheaper than the bottom round.

Bottom Round

This part is the least tender part for making jerky but still great as it is lean and full of flavor. Compared to the eye of round it is a bit more expensive.

Ground meat

If you choose to make jerky from ground meat, I recommend you buy extra lean ground beef. Extra-lean ground beef must have a lean point of 96% lean and 4% fat or higher. The benefit of making ground beef jerky is that it will be easier to chew and not so harsh on your teeth as the texture is much different than the whole meat jerky.

Deer Meat

Deer meat is very lean meat. The animal is running around the woods all the time and eating healthy organic foods. My father in law harvests his venison, so I get a chance to try deer jerky from time to time. The meat is much more tasteful, and the flavor is also much stronger than beef meat. It is better to get the meat from at least a year old animal. The younger animals’ meat is very soft, and it will be much harder to cut thin slices for jerky.

Other Meat

You can also make jerky by using turkey, chicken or elk.

How to clean the food dehydrator

I think the food prep is not the most difficult part, the cleaning is. Some dehydrators have trays that are dishwasher safe and some don’t. But also the ones that are dishwasher safe still need some pre-soaking or pre-cleaning.

Here are a few tips and tricks that can help you save time and struggle with cleaning your dehydrator trays. 

Cooking spray PAM

Before you start putting jerky on a try, spray it with some cooking spray. PAM works excellent, but you could use any other cooking spray without flavors. Cooking spray will help, so the food will not stick so much on a tray. PAM is not a non-stick solution; it is just to help you clean the tray more easily

Pat dry before layering

A great way to make cleaning easier is also pat drying the meat strips. I typically pat dry my jerky strips before dehydrating, which doesn’t leave much marinade on the trays making an easy clean up as well. If you use a thick marinade (has ketchup, bbq sauce,…), it tends to stick to whatever dehydrator screen you are using.

No scrubbing method

After packaging the jerky, take the trays to the bath, and spray them with scrubbing bubble. Let them soak for about 10 minutes and spray clean with handheld shower nozzle on the jet setting. 

Best dehydrator for jerky (beef, ground, deer, turkey, chicken…)

Nesco FD-1018A Gardenmaster 075 Food Dehydrator

If you want to make a lot of jerky, check out the Nesco Gardenmaster. This dehydrator handles a lot of trays and meat. The design of this unit allows a 1000 watt bottom-mounted fan to evenly distribute the heat throughout the unit for even and fast drying. 

 >> Check price on Amazon << 

Power and temperature

The gardenmaster FD 1018 has 1000-Watts of power. It has an adjustable thermostat from 95 to 160F (35 – 70C)

Airflow:

The gardenmaster FD 1018 has integrated converge-flow drying system which pushes heated air up and across each tray.

Trays and accessories

The gardenmaster FD 1018 comes with 8 dishwasher safe trays and expands up to 30 trays. It also includes 8 fruit roll-up sheets and other accessories.

User experience

Users report that it does an exceptional job making jerky and a complete set for all dehydrating needs. A lot of people changed their old version of the same dehydrator for the new version and are still very satisfied with it. A lot of users report they have great results, even if using multiple trays. Some say the bottom and top tray need to be replaced halfway through dehydration, but most say that there is no need to turn or replace trays.

A lot of people find that this dehydrator to be very noisy. Some also suggested that it would be great if dehydrator had an automatic shut off timer.

NESCO FD-75A, Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator

We believe the snackmaster FD 75A is the best bang for your buck.

 >> Check price on Amazon << 

Power and temperature

The NESCO snackmaster FD 75A has a top-mounted fan with 600 watts of drying power. It can heat the airflow from 95 to 160F (35 – 70C)

Airflow:

The NESCO snackmaster FD 75A has a top-mounted fan that distributes the air from top to bottom across each individual tray. With its innovative air circulating system, there is no need to replace the top and bottom tray halfway drying.

Trays and accessories

Comes with 5 trays, but is expandable to 12 trays. (Trays are 13 1/2″ in diameter). It also has an opaque vita-save exterior that helps block harmful light which destroys nutritional content of the food.

People were very impressed with this dehydrator and are getting great results when drying meat fruits and vegetables. Users liked the fact that they are making their own meals and food for backpacking and camping trips, which makes their backpacking and camping food prices drop a lot. People liked the simple design and reported it has excellent temperature settings and that you don’t have to rotate the trays for air ventilation.

Some say that It’s easy to clean if you soak the trays with bleach and soap. The machine itself is quiet and not as loud as the gardenmaster. Users also report that the food maintains the smell, compared to the oven.

Some people reported that they had problems with heating the dehydrator. Units are not reaching the desired temperatures of 160F or 70C.

Excalibur 3926TB Electric Food Dehydrator 

Excalibur is a professional dehydrator for home use. The Excalibur 3926TB is expensive, but you get what you pay for. It’s ten-year warranty really says it all.

 >> Check price on Amazon << 

Power and temperature

The Excalibur has a 26-hour timer and adjustable thermostat. The thermostat ranges from 105 to 165F (40 – 75C). The dehydrator has 600 watts of drying power.

Airflow

It features a horizontal airflow (Parallex), which allows even dehydration without tray rotation, faster dehydration, and with it retaining more nutrients.

Trays and accessories

The excalibur comes with 9 Trays and has 15 square feet of drying space, which offers plenty of space for your favorite snacks. The excalibur can also catch liquid in the bottom but does not have a removable tray, which would make for easy cleanup.
It also includes a flexible poly-screen tray inserts to prevent foods from sticking.

The company states that the temperature range is low enough to preserve active enzymes in fruits and vegetables and is also high enough to meet safety standards for dehydrating meat for jerky. If you are someone who dehydrates food all the time and is making large quantities, then the excalibur is an excellent choice. It is also great for large families.

People were delighted with the product. They reported it has a large capacity and that you can get excellent results with it. Users also like the fact that drying time is way shorter than anything they tried before, and everything dries evenly. People also reported that in some cases, the product was damaged on arrival.

LEM Products 1152 Food Dehydrator (5 or 10 Tray)

Lem dehydrator 1153 has got a very robust solid aluminum body. The nicely designed dehydrator has a back-mounted fan, which means the heat distributes horizontally. This way, each shelf gets the same amount of heat.

 >> Check price on Amazon << 

The front door of the appliance is made up of ABS plastic on the front side, which you can open completely. Also, you can remove the door when required. Lem dehydrator 1153 has a transparent design that allows you to see the food contents during the dehydration procedure. This way the temperature is maintained as you don’t need to open the door to check for doneness. The dehydrator also has a large drying capacity with dimensions of 19.5 inches x 16.6 inches x 16.9 inches.

Power and temperature

LEM Products 1152 Food Dehydrator comes in 500 watts (5 trays) or 800 watts (10 trays) version. It can heat the airflow from 145 to 165F (60 – 75C) with a maximum dry time of 30 hours.

Airflow

Lem 1152 Dehydrator has a horizontal airflow system. 

Trays and accessories

It comes in 5 trays or 10 tray version. It also has a large drip tray, which makes for easy clean-up. The digital timer allows automatic shut-off even in the middle of the night.

People are delighted with the product, and they say it is the most economical one with all the features you need. They are also happy that it heats up evenly. Some people reported problems with the doors of the dehydrator and trays as they tend to be quite fragile and that the food sticks to them more than in other dehydrators.

COSORI Premium Food Dehydrator Machine (Winner!)

Cosory food dehydrator is designed in California. It is the only dehydrator in our review with a touch-control LED display, which gives it a very modern and high-tech tone to it.

>> Check price on Amazon << 

The dehydrator is made of food-grade stainless steel and glass doors so that you can check the doneness of your jerky. The digital control panel doesn’t only reflect slick design but allows you to set the timer between 30 minutes and 48 hours. My favorite features on this product are the automatic shutoff and overheat protection. Auto shut off kicks in right when the timer ends. Overheat protection will activate if the dehydrator overheats. This machine is not noisy, and it only produces 48 decibels, and it’s about the size of a microwave.

Power and temperature

Cosory dehydrators power is 600W and can handle the temperatures from 145 to 165F (60 – 75C)

Airflow

It has got a rear-mounted motor and internal fan to ensure even air circulation.

Trays and accessories

The cosori comes with six BPA free plastic trays, one fruit roll sheets, and one mesh screen.

People are saying that the machine is quiet and that it makes magnificent jerky. Users are also mentioning that drying is faster, almost by a factor of 2. They have more confidence in the stainless steel versus plastic regarding both potential toxin transmission to food and the ability to thoroughly clean with nontoxic cleaners. Some users were mentioning that they had problems with the control panel.

Our choice

When it comes to dehydrators for jerky, there is a wide range of different models available from manufacturers. You can choose to spend a little less money and get a decent quality dehydrator for your money. You could also want to spend quite a lot of money and end up with a dehydrator that can handle large quantities of meat and delivers better and faster results. When it comes down to it, it’s a case of personal preference.

Of the five products we reviewed, the consensus was that the best dehydrator for jerky in terms of temperature control, fan positioning, and the capacity is the COSORI dehydrator. We like the fact that it is made from stainless steel and that it has a touch panel. The low noize of dehydrator was also a deciding factor. Overall, people thought the dehydrator is well designed and gives excellent results when making jerky.

Last update on 2020-06-15/ Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

best induction cooktop or hob with built-in downdraft

Rok Jurca

I am a kind of person that would sneak a taste out of grandma’s pot when I was barely tall enough to reach it. I grew up in kitchens full of love and liveliness and have spent my whole live learning, experimenting and succeeding in the art of cooking. At Pro Family Chef, every day is an opportunity for a new meal and a brand new flavor. I created this website to connect people that love to cook, with the products designed to make their cooking easier, hassle-free and rewarding every time.

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